Recently I got into Stardew Valley. If you don’t know what it is, it’s like Harvest Moon upgraded and better. If you don’t know what Harvest Moon is, it’s basically a farming/rural life RPG. It started at the beginning of July when I decided to give it a whirl via Steam Family Sharing; my husband had a copy and I didn’t.
I quickly became very addicted, so at the beginning of August when we had a little extra money, I bought the game for myself so I could stop stealing my husband’s copy. This is beneficial, because with Steam Family Sharing you can only use someone else’s games if they’re not using any of their games — which meant I could only play when my husband wasn’t home, and that started a bad spiral of MUST CRAM IN AS MANY HOURS AS POSSIBLE BEFORE HE RETURNS FROM WORK.
Now that I own the game, I can play whenever I want and not worry about kicking him off his games.
I don’t know why Stardew Valley is so addictive. Maybe it’s the peaceful music, or the simulation of rural life in a small village where everyone knows your name. Maybe it’s because life is easy in Stardew Valley; so much easier than adult life in the real world.
In the real world, I have trouble making friends and even more trouble making money. I have no idea how much energy I’ll have on a given day. I want a dog and a cat, but I cannot have one. There are no achievements for adulting.
In Stardew Valley, you have a set amount of energy every day (and that energy can be replenished by potions and food, but you must go to bed before 2 am or you will collapse, regardless your levels). It is easy to plan around it.
Making money is easy: grow crops, sell them. Get materials to make artisanal goods. Sell artisanal goods. Forage everything and sell it. Level up in foraging and farming and get skills that help you make more money on your goods. I’m on year 4 and I’ve already made several million gold.
Friendship is even easier. People in Stardew like gifts. You can give them 2 a week. On the wiki, you can see what the best gifts are, and this never changes. You can give Leah 2 Salmonberries a week all year and she will always love them. Give Abigail amethysts all year long and she’ll never grow tired of them (probably because she’s eating them). Krobus adores horseradishes, for some weird reason.
If you give someone a gift on their birthday, or if you get their name for gift-giving at the Feast of the Winter Star, then you get a multiplication to friendship points. Friendship is the easiest thing in Stardew.
It’s year 4, and I just recently got everyone to max hearts level, which also meant dating all the eligible bachelor/ettes in town. (Apparently this meant awakening latent queerness in some of them, as those ones said “I’ve never felt this way about a girl before…”.) As soon as I got max hearts, I married the girl I’d decided to marry in year 1, Abigail. (The goth gamer chick. Are you surprised? Though next time I play through I might marry Leah or Penny.) Abigail planned the whole wedding and it only took 3 days.
Do you know how long planning my wedding took? FOREVER. Do you know how stressful it was? REALLY. Do you know how much work marriage and friendship and love and relationships are? A LOT. BECAUSE PEOPLE ARE COMPLICATED AND THERE IS NO WIKI.
That’s not all, either. At the beginning you choose if you are a cat or a dog person. I chose dog this time around. You get to adopt a dog and name him whatever you want (I named him Paul Anka). (If you choose cat, you can adopt a cat. I will do that on my next play through.) I now have a dog I can love every day. He runs around the farm and barks. He’s ridiculously low maintenance; you don’t even need to feed, water, or walk him. (There is a water bowl; it is entirely cosmetic.) At day’s end, he will curl up inside the house and sleep peacefully. At a certain point, if you click on him enough, you will get the message “[Dog name] loves you!”
That’s right. Paul Anka loves me, and I didn’t even have to buy any dog food.
There are achievements, too. You get an achievement for cooking every recipe (check!), for upgrading your house (check!), for getting married and having 2 children (working on that one; adoption takes a while). There’s an achievement for killing monsters (check!), for catching fish (hah hah, see below), for shipping every item (check!). It makes me feel purposeful, like I accomplished something.
If adult life had achievements, I would do the dishes more often.
You can customize your appearance. I gave my character green skin and purple hair, because apparently I am She-Hulk.
You can adventure. You can explore the mines and the Skull Cavern. You can donate items to the museum and fill it up, and get rewards.
You can even fish, if you really hate yourself. Fishing is the one part of the game I am not keen on. When I first tried it I maaaay have had a small temper tantrum, because if I am not instantly excellent at something I get grumpy. Also, though, it was requiring me to click rapidly and I have a broken $15 mouse from Wal-Mart that Mr. Katje got me for Xmas a few years ago. So anything that is really click-dependent is ridiculously difficult for me.
However, we discovered you can use the “C” button on your keyboard instead of the mouse, and now fishing is a lot easier for me. I still hate its mechanics, as I basically despise fishing in every game it’s in (fuck you Zelda, fuck you WoW), but hey — I caught one of 4 legendary fish! The Mutant Carp! So obviously, it’s tolerable once you figure it out. (Being able to build crab traps helped a lot, as using them levels up your fishing skill, and the higher level you are the better you are. So once I got to a level where I could put in traps, I did that and that’s where the majority of my fishing EXP has come from.)
All in all, Stardew Valley is a really nice escape. It’s a place where everyone likes me, where my tasks are simple and straightforward, where I can easily make money from my jellies and wines and beers. But it’s also challenging, so it does not bore me.
My addiction has petered off since I bought the game, so now I’m only playing a few hours a week, if that. Eventually, I will gain every achievement. Yes, even the ones that are going to be ridiculously hard (like beating The Prairie King without dying, hah hah, oh my gods what).
PS: Also, my friends are writing an amazing Stardew Valley fanficion and if you play the game, you should totally read it.